Israel, Turkey Resolve Dispute over Heron UAVs

After a long delay, caused by incompatibility between the Israeli made platform and the mission system sensor, provided by Turkey, Israel Aircraft Industries has delivered six Heron Unmanned Aerial Systems to Turkey, the remaining four drones on order are destined to arrive in Turkey next month (April 2010). The $185 million contract for the delivery of the ten UAVs was signed in 2005. After initial deliveries were made late 2008, the Turkish Air Force encountered problems integrating the payload and halted the program.

Boeing Begins Construction of a New HALE Drone

Boeing has launched the construction of the first Phantom Eye technology demonstrator, an unmanned, high altitude, long endurance (HALE) platform powered by two liquid-hydrogen engines. The twin-engine Phantom Eye demonstrator will have a 150-foot wingspan and be capable of flying for more than four days at altitudes up to 65,000 feet while carrying a payload of up to 450 pounds. Phantom Eye is designed to maintain a persistent presence in the stratosphere over a specific area, while performing missions that could include intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance and communication. (read more...)

Israel is Seeking a new UAV to Equip Combat Brigades

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is embarking on a procurement program for a new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed to perform as an organic asset of the land forces brigades. The Ground Forces Command (GFC) is expected to complete the evaluation phase by June 2010, following the completion of the requirements draft. Flight evaluations are expected to begin in March 2010, and include systems such as the IAI iView 50, and Elbit Systems' and Skylark II. It is not clear yet whether the IDF will also examine foreign systems, but UAVs competing for similar programs in the U.S. (STUAS) include a new version of the Australian Aerosonde UAV, developed by AAI – a company that has extensive relations with Israel's Aeronautics Defense Systems, which opted not to compete in the previous phase of the Israeli 'Brigade UAV' program. (read more... )

U.S. Navy Considers Deploying Combat UAV by 2018

The U.S. Navy is considering fielding a stealthy unmanned combat aircraft as part of a carrier strike group, as early as 2018. The Navy has recently published a request for information (RFI), a precursor for an acquisition process, calling for information on such concepts, optimized for irregular and hybrid warfare scenarios. The Unmanned Carrier-launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) will be required to integrate and operate in tandem with manned platforms, as part of the carrier air wing, to support limited operations in contested scenarios” the Navy said.  The new platform will be called to perform intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance as well as strike operations. (read more...)

USAF to Convert F-16s into Target Drones

The U.S. Air Force plans to convert up to 126 F-16 fighters into QF-16 drones, eventually replace the QF-4 fleet currently in service by 2014. Boeing has received USAF contract worth almost $70 million to convert retired F-16 aircraft into QF-16s. The drones will be equipped to evaluate how U.S. fighters and weapons will operate against potential adversaries. They will be flown within a controlled range and used for testing. They will be able to fly either manned or unmanned.

Pratt & Whitney to Develop an Engine for MQX Class Drones

Pratt & Whitney intends to produce a gear-less, militarized version of the PW1215 - the 15,000 lb thrust engine representing the smallest version of the PW1000G family, currently being developed for the commercial aircraft market. This new engine could fit the U.S. Air Force future medium size drone known as MQX.

Survey Forecasts New Tactical UAS Programs Worth $2.6 Billion  

A new research note from G2 Solutions predicts two U.S. Army acquisition scenarios for the RQ-7 UAS considering the system will remain in the delivery phase. The scenarios developed by the G2 forecast depict a partial recapitalization and a full-system recompete of a tactical UAS, although both assume a level of standardization and backfit/reuse with existing RQ-7. According to G2 Solutions Research Director Ron Stearns, the Army will "likely look for a high Technical Readiness Level (TRL) platform to be fielded quickly, in an effort to manage risk perceptions and move capability quickly to theater." (more...)

Aurora 'Pay per View' Craft Support Special Forces at Rosewell

Aurora Flight Sciences has completed the first 30 hours ' pay-per-view' employing the new Diamond DA42M twin-engine long endurance aircraft configured as a surrogate UAV system. The aircraft supported the MATRIX International Security Training & Intelligence Center (MISTIC), a Roswell, NM based training facility serving special forces teams. Flying nightly missions over a 6 day period, the DA-42M provided aerial surveillance products to the ground teams, representing similar services provided by unmanned aircraft in Afghanistan. The DA42M is equipped with mission payload consisting the FLIR SYSTEMS Star Safire III and the L3 West Communication CMDL Data Link.

A Bigger BAT is on the Loose

BAT UAVFollowing its plan to expand the former Killer-Bee platform it acquired from Swift Engineering in 2009 into a family of UAVs, last month Northrop Grumman flew the first in a new series of BAT unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The unmanned vehicle that flew in January 2010 was the BAT-12, a new, 12-foot wingspan (3.65 m') version powered by a German engine made by Göbler-Hirthmotoren, originally designed for ultra-light aircraft. The BAT-12 uses a five-blade propeller, contributing to low acoustic signature of the platform. The system was also tested with a new mission payload, comprising stabilized Short Wave Infrared (SWIR) and miniature Synthetic Aperture radar (NanoSAR). The company has already tested the BAT flying airborne radio relay, among other mission profiles. (read more....)

Poland is Buying Israeli Aerostar UAVs

Poland has selected Israel's Aeronautics Defense Systems to fulfilling an urgent operational requirement equipping Polish forces supporting ISAF in Afghanistan. Under the new contract, at an estimated worth of $30 million, Aeronautics will deliver two small unmanned systems, each comprising four Aerostar unmanned aircraft, ground control station and autonomous take-off and landing equipment. The first system will arrive in Afghanistan's Ghazni province by mid-year while the other will be used for training in Poland. Poland has already a number of smaller 'Orbiter' man-portable mini UAVs operated by its forces in AFghanistan. The current Aerostar model is designed for mission endurance of 10 hours, operating at distances up to 200 km from its ground station. Aerostar UAVs are already operational in the province of Uruzgan in Afghanistan. The Dutch government has leased these aircraft from Aeronautics to support the Dutch forces in the country. The Dutch contingent is scheduled to leave Afghanistan in August.

More Incentives for USAF UAV 'Air Crews'

The U.S. Air Force is increasing the incentive pay for pilots and operators of unmanned vehicles, matching current aviation incentive pay programs. According to Air Force officials, the new plan is available to Airmen in the officer 18X Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) pilot or the new enlisted 1UOX1 RPA sensor operator career fields. Until recently RPAs were the only airframes where an enlisted member of the crew wasn't receiving an incentive pay specifically paid for their aviation duties. Moreover, sensor operator position was often an additional duty for imagery analysis Airmen. The Air Force wants these airmen to devote to this important role and stay in this specific career field. Currently has slightly more than 400 Airmen in the RPA career fields, but the number is expected to rise to more than 1,000 as the need for more combat air patrols increases over the next few years. As these incentives scale with an Airman's time within the career fields, the increased pay will be considered an incentive to attract and retain Airmen who dedicate themselves to operating RPAs.

Elbit Systems Unveils Intelligence Center for UAVs

ELBIT IMSElbit Systems is developing multi-sensor fusion and display systems integrated new an 'Intelligence Management Center' (IMC), enabling users of unmanned systems to control missions involving multiple sensors. Elements of the new center have already been ordered by several customers, to enhance the operational management of UAV assets, improve training and development of operational doctrine, and better integrate UAVs with other missions. (read more...)

FireScout Demonstrates Unique Capabilities during Army Experiment

Participating in the U.S. Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE) at Fort Benning, Ga. Last month, Northrop Grumman's MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned system demonstrated new mission capabilities provided by rotary-wing UAVs. Among the missions demonstrated by the Fire Scout were cargo delivery, force protection, area surveillance reconnaissance, and target acquisition (RSTA), broadband networking and communications relay. (read more...)

Unmanned Cargo Lifters

KMAXThe Marine Corps is nearing a decision about the deployment of unmanned air systems to resupply forward units in Afghanistan, replacing some of the convoys moving on the dangerous roads there. The Marines are evaluating three platforms – the Kaman K-MAX helicopter or Boeing A160 Hummingbird. The MQ-8B, which was not included in the preliminary evaluation, could also be considered, given the platform's maturity with the U.S. Navy. The cargo carrying capability of the FireScout was recently performed by Northrop Grumman, demonstrating an autonomous resupply capability for the army. (read more...)

Armed Scouts to Become Unmanned?

The US Army is considering options to replace the Bell OH-58 Kiowa Warrior scout helicopters with 'optionally piloted' helicopters, enabling part of the scout missions to be performed by unmanned assets. Plans to replace the OH-58 were stalled in 2004, with the cancellation of the RAH-66 Comanche program and in 2008, with the termination of the Bell ARH-70 Arapaho armed scout. The current plan to field an Armed Aerial Scout (AAH) is in the planning, with teams from EADS/Lockheed Martin offering a version of the H-72 Lacota designated AS645, and Boeing offering the AH-6S. Boeing has also tested a variant of the AH-6, dubbed 'Unmanned Little Bird' (ULB) as an optionally unmanned helicopter. Boeing is already working on a closely integrated 'manned-unmanned teaming' employing the Apache Block III. Operated either as a forward scout or light strike platform, the AAS concept could provide more capabilities than today's Kiowa Warriors, especially as strike missions are increasingly performed by unmanned assets.

Israel Fields Third UAV Squadron for Strategic Roles

Heron UAVIsrael's Air Force (IAF) has formally accepted today the Eitan ( Heron TP) unmanned aircraft – the largest UAV built in Israel, and the second largest operational UAV in the world. 210 Squadron operating from Tel Nof Air Force base was established specifically for this unique new aircraft. While Eitan is a new aircraft, considered to be among the world's most ophisticated unmanned aircraft, it is answering an operational specification, defined by the IAF over 15 years ago. (read more...)

France Evaluates S-100 VTUAVs for Land, Coastal, Urban Roles

Schiebel UAVThe French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA) will evaluate the Camcopter S-100 Schiebel for the VTOL (Vertical Takeoff and Landing) UAV system. As part of the test plan, taking place in the first half of 2010 DGA will evaluate the performance of the UAV over land, in urban terrain and in coastal operations, operated by the French Army and Navy. Thales and Schiebel have partnered to promote the S-100 in the French market and are working together to support the trials. On these tests the Camcopter S-100 is being fitted with a Thales Agile 2 Electro Optical and Infra Red (EO/IR) payload.

 

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